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Blogs suffer collateral damage in U.K. email scandal

16 Apr

As I was passing through London on Monday I couldn’t help notice the communications storm ripping through Number 10 and the media.

The case of spin doctors being used by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, seems to have consumed everyone from political consultants to the media and communicators on both sides of the political aisle. It was initially a story about slanderous emails, intended to generate content for a web site –one of those attack sites some organizations use. But it soon generated a lot of collateral damage.

As Stephen Pollard, an associate editor of The Jewish Times, in a commentary in The Times observed:

I am no starry-eyed fan of blogging per se. But I am evangelical about the benefits that it can bring – and I accept that the price of being able to print genuine exposés may be the freedom to print rubbish.

As a newspaper man who has turned to blogging he believes crises like these don’t create quite the firestorm unless mainstream media pours on some gasoline. (Note the headline the Times gave his piece: “Don’t be fooled by the power of blogs.”)

Other in-depth analysis included The Independent‘s story on the “Axis of spin” and the raging battle of other newspapers editors’ blogs.

Yes, blogs have become the connective tissue between much of PR, journalism and political communication. We all rejoice in this, but that’s a two-edged sword. In the UK, several cabinet MPs have their own blogs, more or less bypassing the traditional communications teams. Which has another interesting side effect: Not updating one’s blog during a communications crisis, could hereafter be construed as a bad move, too! Almost like offering a “no comment” when a microphone is thrust in one’s face.

Take  Tom Watson, the Labour MP who was one of the earliest to have his own blog. The Independent slammed him for being tardy on his posts saying “The digital expert staying strangely silent on the internet.” Apparently he’s stopped tweeting as well.

Oddly enough few are paying attention to the fact that this was basically an email scandal, since it’s now turned into a political PR issue, with blogs at the center of it.

For crisis communictions experts paying attention to blogs (or not) this will go down as a great case study. Stay tuned!

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